“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.”
President Bill Clinton struck a serious pose, pounded the podium, and delivered this declaration with the air of a powerful man who is being detained from serving the American people to deal with trivial details.
The trouble was, he was lying. Not only had he had repeated sexual relations with intern Monica Lewinsky, he lied about it under oath, denied it multiple times on camera, and reportedly encouraged others to lie about it under oath.
What was America’s reaction? Lots of people I talked to thought it was great that the President of the United States knew how to have a good time. The poor man worked hard and probably deserved a little action on the side, right?
Under intense pressure and facing impeachment hearings, Clinton finally admitted his lie: “Indeed, I did have a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky that was not appropriate. In fact, it was wrong.”
Okay, he said it was wrong. Yet he never seemed all that sorry. Now here’s the worst part of it for me: So many young people I know don’t think he had anything to be sorry for.
Moral relativism. Know what that is? Moral relativism is a way of looking at the world that says what is right or wrong for you depends on what you think is morally right or wrong. In other words, everything is relative.
You’ve heard something like this before, haven’t you? “Dude, I know you think that getting high is wrong. Hey, that’s cool. Whatever works for you. But I happen to think there’s nothing wrong with it, you know? Hang with us if you want. Up to you.”
That’s the problem with moral relativism—everything’s up to you.
Bill Clinton is the poster child for moral relativism. He’s charming and smart, and he always lands on his feet. He has enlightened opinions on feminism, the environment, war, and social programs. He’s accepting and tolerant, and he won’t look down on you if you want to break a few rules.
Who cares if he lies to the American people and cheats on his wife? Bill Clinton is a great example of how moral relativism works in our country: If you have politically correct opinions, you can get away with just about anything.
I’m going to play oncologist now and give America an MRI exam. You’re going to see that a malignant mass has spread all across our culture.
Where did this disease come from? I’ll explain it in one long, run-on sentence: In the beginning everything was great, but then Christianity came and introduced everybody to guilt, and then came the Enlightenment (early eighteenth century), which told us that science and technology could solve everything, but that was even worse because it led to wars and the exploitation of people and the environment, so a few postmodern philosophers decided we are all free to make our own truth and should quit trying to force everyone to believe what we believe and act like we act.
And so moral relativism was born.
What does this disease look like? Like a TUMOR. Let me spell it out for you.
In our culture, tolerance is king. We don’t want anybody to feel bad about themselves. Everybody gets to do whatever they want, and we’re cool with it, so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else. And we get to do whatever we want, too, and it’s nobody’s business but our own.
What I’m really talking about here is alternative lifestyles. Our generation loves alternative voices, alternative music, alternative medicine—anything, in fact, that flies in the face of “the way things have always been.”
It’s not just about offending Mom and Dad, though that’s a big part of it. I think it’s the young person’s attempt to show that he (or she) is not just a clone of his parents, but is a unique person who can think for himself. He’s throwing out all the old ways because somebody said it was cool and would make him feel powerful.
Our culture loves a victim. If you can show that you’ve been picked on, pushed around, inconvenienced, or even slightly embarrassed in gym one day, postmodern wisdom says that you have been pushed to the margins of society. You are a good person deserving of a break (especially if the perpetrator was caught on videotape).
Juvenile delinquents are portrayed as victims of a poor upbringing. The misdeeds of celebrities, athletes, and politicians are quickly forgotten because, after all, they were driven to their sordid behavior by the unreasonable demands of fame and fortune. Look again at Bill Clinton—even after the truth about the Lewinsky affair came out, his supporters never wavered, claiming he was the victim of a right-wing conspiracy.
Hey, I love the great outdoors, but what we’re talking about here is radical environmentalism. Many of the same people who defend a woman’s right to kill her unborn child would hurl themselves in front of a bulldozer to rescue a nest of spotted owl eggs.
This kind of relativistic thinking says that people are the problem. Radical environmentalists believe that humans are to leave the smallest possible footprint on Mother Earth. “Leave the world alone!” they say. “If you can’t live in harmony with nature, then you shouldn’t live here at all.”
Reprobate means “marked by immorality; deviating from what is considered right or proper or good.” Our culture has adopted an “anything goes” morality, a kind of moral whatever-ness. Anytime you run into a rule or a traditional moral standard that would keep you from having your fun, you can just say, “I don’t believe in a fixed right or wrong. I have the right to explore this path for myself. I believe it’s true for me. Try to stop me and I’ll scream that my rights are being violated!”
What a deal! Not only are you allowed to do whatever feels right, the culture will now come to your aid if someone tries to stand in your way. If you break into someone’s house and slip on their floor, you can sue them for thousands of dollars. Get paid for burglary--what a country!
Now you know what I mean by a TUMOR. But we’re not done with our MRI machine just yet. Let’s point this baby a little closer to home. How are you doing against the onslaught of moral relativism? Are you holding your ground? Or is the same disease taking hold in your life, too? And what about the people you hang with after class or at church?
Again, let’s start with the issue of tolerance. Do you ever find yourself in uncomfortable situations—drinking or drug parties, say—where you keep quiet because you don’t want to offend anyone? Do your friends, even the ones in your church youth group, walk around saying or wearing things that seem to contradict biblical morality? Is your youth pastor considered a cool guy because he’s tolerant and accepting of this kind of stuff?
What about untraditionalism? Are you and your crowd so set on being different or independent that you reject anything that conforms to traditional authority? How about your church? There are all kinds of worship styles, but if the window is thrown open to every type of “Christian” faith—to the point where the Bible becomes irrelevant or Jesus is no longer seen as the only way to God—you may get sucked right out that window into a tornado.
Now, our MRI should reveal a passion for the marginalized. Jesus Himself has a heart for the outcast and the oppressed. Our God is “father to the fatherless, a defender of widows” (Psalm 68:5, NIV). But when you or your church concentrates only on social programs and food for the hungry, refusing to pass on the Good News of the gospel, then your priorities are out of whack. The YMCA is a good example. The C in its acronym stands for Christian—but I doubt if the people who participate in its programs know it.
Then there is the great outdoors. Maybe you and your friends celebrate “Earth Day.” Or maybe you’ve heard a cry in your church to become more “earth-friendly.” Remember the “What Would Jesus Drive” campaign? Don’t get me wrong: I think nature is fantastic. I’m out there every chance I get. But I also believe that God placed mankind over nature and told us to subdue it (see the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, verse 28). When we as Christians act like we’re not the stewards of nature but rather its offspring, I start to get upset.
Do you see any sign of your Christian friends being reprobate—that is, living by the world’s anything-goes standards? How about yourself? I’m not asking if you make mistakes. Of course you do. But I turn on the TV and see Catholic priests being arrested on charges of pedophilia. I switch channels and see a televangelist living in luxury but crying for more money for his ministry. Then I see some minister get up and defend homosexuality from the pulpit. We’re not just talking about mistakes here. We’re talking about a deliberate and very unbiblical lifestyle.
If an MRI clearly showed a massive growth in your chest sending out cancer cells to every corner of your body, you’d want the thing to come out, right? But just like smokers who won’t quit the habit even when they get lung cancer, our patient doesn’t want to deal with the problem.
I’m talking about America here. About today’s church. And yes, about you and the guys and gals you hang out with. Like cancer, moral relativism is a life-threatening problem that won’t go away by itself. The TUMOR has to come out.
I didn’t write this book to fix America. I didn’t even write it to change the church. I wrote this book to show you that moral relativism and Christianity don’t mesh. Have you noticed seeds of this worldly philosophy creeping into your heart? If so, I’m here to help you decide if you want to go the way of the world or the way of Jesus Christ.
It’s time to get off the fence, and you’ve got to come down on one side or the other.